She recommended a book by Jessica Morrell called Between the Lines
J.S. said to be subtle and not put exaggerated traits on characters. It's easy to show a jerk of a husband being overtly insensitive to his wife, for example, when she's going through a difficult time. It's more subtle if, while she's crying, what he notices is how tacky her shoes are.
She suggested that we writers should know things about our characters that we'd never put in the book, especially our villains. "Even Hitler opened the door for someone." So the color of a childhood bedroom or a favorite song as a teen can provide a dimension we could miss as we're crafting that character's behavior. J.S. said it's more than knowing who the characters are now but who they were in the past are now but what they were in their past. We are the sum total of a million little things in our life.
Don't underestimate the power of what a character doesn't say.
Five Keys to Getting Started
1. T.J. started out by reminding everyone that no two authors are the same and all must find what works fro them. He suggested that the best way to pick your target audience is to try some short, sample pieces.
2. He uses something he calls the Query Letter Master. He write his query before he writes the book, using it as a kind of outline for the story.
3. Push through when you want to quit. You may need to take a break from your writing, brainstorm with people, or try writing something completely different.
4. It's hard work to turn a great idea into a great book. Start simple and build on it.
5. Enjoy the ride. Don't let the inevitable rejection get you down.
Designing a Fantasy World
(Sidenote: Cas and I met on Facebook when I did a giveaway last year of her book King's Envoy. She's from the U.K., so it was really fun to get to meet her in person.)
Cas noted that we are immersed in place. The physical properties in your world impact everything. Example: Is your world going to be round or flat? If it's flat, is it flat horizontally or vertically? How would the geography of your world impact the peoples and societies in it. The geography of your world can be a character, too.
She posed a number of questions you ought to ask yourself as you create your world. Will it be similar to ours? If not, how will it be different? Are there continents? Are they static or move around? Is here plenty of water or is water rare? How are the seasons different? What is the weather like? How many seasons are there?When it rains, is it liquid that falls? Is there a single sun? Single moon? How do those impact the seasons and the weather? The tides?
If you can create a vivid and fascinating world, readers may ignore inconsistencies.
Cas raised an interesting question about religion on your world, noting religion is not always about "gods". People worship many different things. She gave an example of soccer, saying that many people in the U.K. worship soccer. Then she noted that all societies curse. If there's no religion, what do they curse?
In world building, we need to consider things like technology and how it relates to travel, war. This made me think of the U.S. space program and how we have all kinds of everyday things that were originally created for astronauts: freeze dried foods and CT scans are just two examples that come into mind.
If your world has magic, it must be essential to your world and your people so neither can function without it. Magic must have limits or flaws--there must be a price for using it.
The small things make all the difference. Make it real, at least in reference (like potty breaks, though you don't have to belabor them). This made me remember a Star Trek book written about the classic series by they guy that did the Trouble With Tribbles episode. He suggested that since bathrooms are never shown on Klingon ships, that explains why they're so cranky.
Michelle Davidson Argyle
Michelle reminded us to be positive--even when dealing with things like negative reviews. When you put your work out there it's no longer yours.
People remember a smiling face, good attitude, and positive words. Remember that people are very busy and may inadvertently come across as brusque. People pick up on insincerity. So be sincere but don't bring other people down.
When introducing yourself (in email or in person), mention how you know the person (read their book, met at a conference, etc.) Pay attention to body posture and be sensitive to what it tells you (arms crossed over chest can be a sign that the person isn't feeling particularly approachable).
Once you're published, you are tied to a publisher, so you need to be professional.
Those are a few of the speakers at the conference. It was fun to see some familiar faces in the audience, too.
iWriteNetwork is hosting a two-day conference with the Alpine School District.
The District's sponsorship makes it a very affordable conference. We'll have access to two computer labs. You even have the option of signing up for just one of the two days. You can register here.
You can check the iWriteNetwork blog for details on the schedule, if you're able to attend.
Do you have a writing conference in your summer plans?
If so, which one(s)?